Click here for Part 1 of our 3 Part Series “An Interview With Ken MacDonald”

Q

I understand that these were late adopters?

A

Exactly. Usually end of life products and so on, drive adoption for them. They’re more concerned about ”Is it going to work for me?” unlike ”What features can I use?” They are more concerned about just having dial tone, having it there for years of reliability. But they’re not worried about adopting the new technologies, cell phone usage, video, etc.

Q

Unified messaging & unified communication?

A

Exactly. Our mantra is that technology, depending on the agent of that client staff, usually depicts how quickly they’ll adopt the technology. We give them the forewarning that we’re going to sell it to you, but you have to understand how you are going to adopt that within your community. We usually give them guidance, because we have some best-in-class methodologies that we use to do this change management philosophy. But the main thing is that, once you tell a client the benefits that it means to them, the productivity enhancements to them, they usually will grab that and start to run with it. But if it’s just saying ”I need you to use this”, success is very low.

Q

You mentioned that about a hundred users is the tipping point. Is that about the break point when they start to move on-premise?

A

We’re not seeing that as driver. That’s probably our most common client base. The one thing I didn’t build on, but let’s talk about the verticalization of our base. The two huge verticals that we work in, predominately is education and hospitality. Essentially the hundred users, it is what I considered a classic business size. When you get into the education space as an example, our biggest educational client is Toronto District School Board. Well over 500 schools, servicing thousands of endpoints. They’re in enterprise-grade conditions as far as the size and scope of the client, but their servicing is a very basic requirement. They just have telephones and dial tone and things to that nature. So no complexity to that client. Because of the fact that we play in that space, it’s really born on the fact that our service model is conducive to servicing larger clients. We have a large enough footprint. Those non-complex technologies, because we have a workforce that has a lot of experience, grew up with these product families. We’re not dealing with a lot of junior-type personnel.

In the hospitality space, it’s a little different play. They’re not as interested in the newer technologies. Hospitality has changed a lot. Most people don’t even use the phone in their room anymore. The cell phones have changed that. Essentially they’re looking for basic dial tone services. They’re looking at,… reliability is key. They’re looking about a way that their service can serve clients different to separate them from the other competitors, who are usually just down the street. In those spaces we have very large clients, thousands of rooms, etc. But they’re not our average. Really our average client is in around a hundred set range, but we do play into the bigger levels of enterprise, but it’s really based on the verticalization of that client.

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Q

Let’s discuss the Avaya Product

A

Again we assumed the Avaya relationships through our original Nortel partnership. Essentially we’ve been really selling Nortel, now Avaya products for greater than 30 years. The one thing that separates us from the pack and the reason that we love Avaya is the fact that, it has a nice product family. It’s not specific to one application or one voice system, etc. It has many facets to it. If you look at the product road map that Avaya has, you’re talking about video technology, data infrastructure, your standard UC, and contact center applications and so on. That’s the sweet spot that we like to play in. It really leverages our one throat to choke approach, and the fact that we can go in with a full Avaya compliment and we’re doing everything, as I mentioned previously, except for the Desktop. They have one vendor to call and any issues there’s no more finger pointing between multiple vendors at that location. From our relationship with Avaya, we’re at a platinum level. We are at the highest level as partnership. It’s a space that we have to play in. A level of a status that we needed to achieve, so we can compete very strongly. When talking to clients, to get to platinum level, it’s not just about the amount of sales that we have with Avaya. But it’s the amount of products that we carry. The amount of certifications that we have internally with our staff. There is a big survey component to that, so how well our customers are feeling about, not only Avaya’s products, but how SmartIP is treating them, as we deliver those Avaya  products. Those are all key elements. We fit the strategy very closely with Avaya strategy, and that’s why the relationship has done very well for both parties over the last many years.

Q

It’s a very good fit. Avaya provides, a suite that goes end to end with the exception maybe workforce management call reporting, or is that included as well?

A

They do it all. In the contact center space we’re currently cell 3, 3 other contact center products AECC, ACCS, and IP Office contact center. The way I’ve described them is really an enterprise level to small mom-and-pop shop. Essentially the bolt-on applications that go on to a contact center, workforce management, call recording, multimedia, etc. Experience portals and other product that would be in that family, those are all things that Avaya already has in the product suite.

You are satisfying a client no matter what the need is, and what the client size is, through Avaya, where in other manufacturers we sometimes have to walk away or retrench, because that product may be limited to either the amount of applications that it has, the size of the products, and comparing that to what the customer needs are.

Q

It’s a very good fit. Avaya provides, a suite that goes end to end with the exception maybe workforce management call reporting, or is that included as well?

A

Definitely. The big thing is that, if you take the Avaya compliment, it’s an evolution of products versus other suppliers are really greenfield opportunities. Meaning if a customer is looking to replace it’s a rip and replace, where Avaya has done a very good job to have an evolution of product families, where its certain components can be retained, even going to the new, more prevalent applications and so on, sets as an example can be retained across product families. Certain applications can be retained across product families, because no customer has a big pocket full of money. What we do as a company is, be able to look at their current environment, make a recommendation based on what they think is the key criteria. Some of it is price, but it’s not always price. Some of it is timing, access to specific productivity enhancements that they would get out of the actual system or applications. What we do is, we take those myriad needs of a customer and we say…

We live in this industry every day. This is what we do for a living. We don’t try to do anything else, but we think we’re very good at this.

For someone to come in to this industry, that’s uneducated and doesn’t live in it and breathe in it every day, they don’t know the dynamics of what’s available for them. This is where we try to separate ourselves from the pack to say…

As your trusted adviser we have to provide you with the best solution based on your key criteria and the thing is, that we’re not here to sell you anything that would be considered throw away in your future, etc. It’s based on what you’re telling us is your plan over the next three to five, and sometimes seven to ten years, so these products will work for you for the period of time that you determine that they should.

Q

Your focus on service and client relationships has been the growth model for Smart IP?

A

I keep calling it the trusted advisor, because it’s the best description of what we do is that, we want the customer,… if Jose was here to give you an example to hear another way to describe it, is we sell comfort. Because once you start to do business with us is that, we take your issues as our own. We take those issues and say ”If we don’t do a good job with them, then we won’t have a happy client.” We go as far with our sales team as to say, we expect you to present something to a client that is so defined and meeting their key objectives, that they can socialize, take that single piece of paper or multiple pieces of paper, sending it to 10 people in the company and they’ll clearly understand what we wanted to accomplish, how we’re going to accomplish, the cost to accomplishment and the time frame it will be done in. That’s our job, so that’s where a trusted advisor says “We will make your job easier to do business with us”, and that would be a big separator compared to our competitors.

Ken MacDonald, General Manager

Ken Macdonald, General Manager Smart IP Phone SystemsKen is responsible for all aspects of the customer experience at Smart IP, including system implementations, order fulfillment, customer service and technical support. Among his many attributes, Ken has a proven track record as a senior leader with extensive hands-on business management and technology experience.

Management Team

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